UROP Project

Production of Bio-Oil from Biomass by using 2-Step Fast Pyrolysis Process



Daniel Holder

Program Director UROP


+49 241 80-90695


Key Info

Basic Information

Project Offer-Number:
UROP Abroad
Chemical Engineering
Organisation unit:
Prof. Randy Weinstein
Language Skills:
Computer Skills:
Microsoft Office
on in using mechanical tools (e.g. use wrench for piping work, etc)


The primary thrust of BCRT lab is on the research and development of process technologies to convert biomass into useful products, primarily energy, chemicals and fuels. As the center piece of the research efforts in this area, energy densification of biomass by methods of liquefaction, particularly fast pyrolysis, has been touted as the most promising approach for utilizing biomass. Fast pyrolysis is a process where biomass materials, typically in 2-3 mm particle size, is exposed to a high temperature environment (400-600oC) in the absence of oxidizing agents, which results in the decomposition and conversion of biomass components into a liquid mixture, consisting of a vast array of organic compounds, known as biocrude oil (BCO). Like petroleum crude oil, BCO can either be burned as fuel or be processed further to produce various carbon-based products. Research in biomass liquefaction is focused on further developing understanding on how the key chemical compounds in BCO are generated and determine which key parameters of the process that affect its physicochemical properties. The present technologies of fast pyrolysis systems typically simultaneously convert all three components of lignocellulosic biomass into a liquid mixture of bio-crude oil composed of wide variety of chemical compounds having different physicochemical properties, which make further processing of bio-crude oil difficult and inefficient without separating its chemical components into fractions first. The proposed fast pyrolysis reactor system helps reduce the complexity of bio-crude oil utilization since it produces two bio-crude oil fractions; each fraction is composed of chemicals of similar physicochemical properties, which can be processed without having to further fractionate them first. Preliminary results, obtained by fast pyrolysis experiments using micropyrolyzer/GCMS system and thermogravimetric analyzer, have shown that lignocellulosic biomass materials, such as switchgrass and woods, can be pyrolyzed in two steps. In the first step, at a specific reaction temperature and residence time range, only the cellulose and hemicellulose components were primarily decomposed to produce cellulose and hemicellulose derived hydrophilic bio-crude oil fraction. In the second step, the remaining solids, consisting of primarily lignin, are pyrolyzed at a specific reaction temperature and residence time range to produce an organic biocrude oil fraction.


Further work will be focused on finding the optimum process conditions, i.e. reaction temperature and residence time, for the 2-step fast pyrolysis process, for the conversion of different types of biomass materials. While most of the work will be performed by using the micropyrolyzer/GC-MS and thermogravimetric analyzer systems, the ultimate proof-of-concept work will be performed by using the presently-constructed 500 g/hr continuous fluidized bed fast pyrolysis reactor system. The task assigned is running selected fast pyrolysis experiments to obtain bio-crude oil and bio-char products, which will be further analyzed for their physicochemical properties by using various analytical instruments, such as gas chromatography/mass spectrometer (GC/MS), thermogravimetric analyzer (TGA), Fourier Transform Infra Red (FTIR) analyzer, and inductively coupled plasma analyzer (ICP). A written report and am oral presentation will be expected by the end of the research program.


Previous experience working in chemistry/engineering laboratory environment.

Full Address

Villanova University
800 E. Lancaster Avenue
PA 19085 Villanova